The Parkour community migrated from the suburbs of Paris in the 90s to the forums of the internet before settling permanently on social media apps like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. And over those periods of decades different layers of culture have formed like igneous rocks building an ever expanding and diverse Parkour community. But as with most large groups of humans, as time goes by the group gets more and more individualized and starts to lose the shape that it once held before new ideas arrived. So what we are left with today is a day to day balance between those that make up the total Parkour community versus those who create and maintain Parkour culture. Do you see a difference?
What’s the difference between community and culture though?
Community is defined as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Culture is defined as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Community has another definition we’ll get to later.
Now, I’m by no means a historian or a professional researcher, for that type of resource check out the Parkour Research Facebook Group or your local library. But based on those definitions it becomes a little more clear how and why the sport evolved as it did. The Yamakasi still embody the spirit of that fellowship our sport was born out of, their camaraderie echoes across small groups of athletes training across the world today. The French may not have invented movement but they gave the rest of the world permission to explore it in a way that we had as a people perhaps forgotten. Then it all changed.
There was a short period of time when the Yamakasi could have carefully decided and directed what the sport would turn into. Perhaps if they had started a monastery like the Shaolin monks and escaped to the mountains they would have succeeded in creating their original idea of “strong body, strong mind”. But when they released it televised to the public, and then again on the BBC and then for Hollywood – by then it was the world who had to make their minds up about what “Parkour” really was. Those brief bursts of media rippled across the generations and created the culture we have today. Our community thrives off that culture, most people didn’t know there were so many others that had those interests or goals until it was right in front of our face on a screen.
I think it’s really important that we highlight once more the difference in definitions.
Community is a feeling of fellowship one feels, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals. Something you feel.
Culture is the customs, arts, social institutions and achievements of a given nation, people or group. Something you create.
So Roof Culture Asia is undeniably as much a part of your cultural heritage as your local gym and community is. Because community is a feeling one chases, not a physical thing. So that means there are infinite communities within all of Parkour culture itself. You feel a sense of community because you are physically surrounded by others that choose to find challenge where others find the mundane. Thanks to the wonders of the internet you are now also aware that there are others that feel like you all around the world, you can even hit most of them up on Instagram and follow their training posts if you’d like.
Our culture is young entrepreneurs learning they can brand t shirts and sell them to their friends. Our culture is walking several miles to the closest training spot because your neighborhood isn’t safe enough to practice freely in. Our culture is working a full time job and running a gym for your local athletes to train at all night. When you read those sentences you may have sensed a feeling of community from those common goals. And that distinction is not lost on me. The English language is fucking fascinating to me.
Mostly because community also means “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Which makes this shit wicked complex.
Community is an idea you share.
Culture’s what you hold in your hand.
But community is also a physical group because the English language is lazy and has to create redundancy.
And technically not all culture can be held in your hand cause some of that’s abstract too.
So basically these two words are a serpent eating it’s own tail and I don’t know I’m here.
Our culture is made of art, traditions and achievements of each Parkour community. But that culture instills a feeling of community only in those that are aware of the culture. So not every physical community shares the same culture as those feeling said community. That means that there are thousands of parkour communities that know nothing of each other except that they share some very individually specific cultural ties via the internet. If you’re still reading this, I’m sure you’ve been wondering why any of this matters at all.
Because Red Bull dictates the culture of Parkour just as much as Storror does. Red Bull is not the physical community, but rather through their cultural event they instill a feeling of community in those that are truly responsible for the culture outside its dollar value. King Kong would beat his chest and roar whether on his island alone or on a Broadway stage, it’s his culture, his custom, his art. Much the same, most parkour athletes and communities train hard whether or not there is an event going or a camera rolling. The reason why this is important is so we remember that the culture isn’t dictated purely by the community, rather the community is influenced by anything that affects the culture.
Our communities are defined by culture.
So it is important that you know there may be more athletes training in Tehran, Iran than your town. And the culture they create is just as important as the Air Wipp finale. Have you ever just typed the word parkour into a search bar on Facebook or Instagram and then just added different cities or countries to it? Within minutes you’ll have found tens of communities creating a culture that may or may not resonate with your local culture and community. Within hours you’ll be aware how impossible it is to see it all.
We have limited control over the growth of communities and the culture they create.
Make sure to create something worth sharing. Because we aren’t louder than The Office.
Thanks so much for reading everyone. This one got a little out of hand but I hope you understand what I was going for while highlighting the differences between words. I think it’s important we acknowledge what we mean when reference “The Community” when making broad statements that are perhaps not true for the whole of those creating the culture of parkour. It’s a fascinating linguistic pretzel and I’m sure you could spend hours arguing with me about it if you’re that type of person. As usual I’m just trying to get you to speak thoughtfully and think efficiently about the sport you help influence. Don’t limit your culture to just your local community, reclaim your parkour birthright by sharing in the collective accomplishment, goals and arts created by all those who move.